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Toulson & Harvey Used To Be Friends

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Steve Bennett

This is not, despite what the title might suggest, a look at the tensions behind a comedy double-act, though it might have been more intriguing if it had been. Nominated for the Perrier best newcomer award back in 2005, Toulson and Harvey had a three-year absence from the Fringe while Luke Toulson embarked on a solo career.

But there was no great falling-out, the enforced absence being down to Stephen Harvey breaking his back. And this reunion show is simply a series of sketches where quite often the characters happen to be buddies with issues, understandably for any two-hander. So we have the likes of Jesus and Judas, two gratuitously Austrian men giving a series of best man speeches, or even Harvey with his childhood best friend… a cuddly toy.

The distinguishing marks of this act is that they are simultaneously slick and sloppy. The scenes move fluidly to give a sense of narrative, with characters given reason to reappear, while both comics are sterling actors, making their creations believable even when the sketch is surreal as a Christian chatting to a lion in the tunnel before their Colosseum clash.

Yet they also like to break the fourth wall and chat, unscripted, between themselves and with the audience, trying to trip each other up or comment on events it the room. It’s a delicate balancing act, sometime paying off with a spirit of anarchic fun, sometimes seeming self-indulgent, to the detriment of the pace and focus of the otherwise tightly-written show.

The result is a show flitting between the Pajama Men and We Are Klang, but not quite as good as either. The inconsistency extends to the writing, which is sometimes inspired – as in their gloriously bad taste song about fallen TV stars – and sometimes loses its way.

There are laughs to be had, and the guys are clearly engaging performers, but for all the well-constructed scripting, this comeback doesn’t quite hold together, undermined more often than not my their own distractions.

Review date: 8 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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